Bringing Gardening into Your Homeschool

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gardening into your homeschool

Spring is here in many places and it will be time to get outside soon.  It’s easy to incorporate gardening into your homeschool day and there is so much to learn from starting and caring for a garden. Here are ten things to learn by bringing gardening into your homeschool!

Gardening into Your Homeschool

Gardens are amazing places!  They start out as a plain piece of land or a container full of dirt.  The addition of seeds, plants, water, sun, and some love transforms them into a place full of activity and and learning.

There are so many things to learn while gardening:

1) There are many different types of gardens and they can grow in many different places.

Fruit and vegetable gardens grow food you can eat, herb gardens grow herbs for cooking and medicines, and flower gardens are for……well, flowers.  Did you know there are also pollinator gardens?  These gardens have plants specifically to attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  There are also rain gardens which have plants that like wet areas and can be home to frogs, salamanders, and other creatures.

There are prayer gardens containing plants with Biblical references or moon gardens with plants that bloom at night.  Fairy gardens contain small little plants and fun figurines giving one the sense that someone special lives there.  For those who live in an apartment or a boat, there are container gardens or terrariums.  A garden can be whatever you make it and that’s the first step to homeschooling in your garden!

Gardening into Your Homeschool

2) Gardens come in all shapes and sizes.

One of the most critical steps in gardening is to decide the shape, size, and type of garden you want to have.  A garden doesn’t have to be huge to produce a lot of food.  It also doesn’t need to be elaborate, complicated, or expensive.  Plants can grow in a lot of different ways.

If you have good soil in your yard, you can simply turn the soil in an area and start planting seeds.  You can also build box gardens and fill them full of dirt and get started that way.  Some people like “square foot gardening” or using old pallets.  You can even have a garden planted in mounds of dirt or bales of straw or hay.  What your garden looks like is only limited by your imagination.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

3) Insects can make or break your garden.

Get to know which ones will make your garden healthier and which ones will hurt your plants.  Insects such as bees and butterflies are wonderful pollinators and help your plants to reproduce and create tasty fruit and vegetables for you to eat.  Ladybugs and Praying Mantises are excellent hunters!  They target smaller bugs that can harm your plants, such as aphids. Praying Mantises are voracious feeders and can eat many harmful insects in a single day.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

4) There’s a lot happening under the soil, too.

Even though we can’t see under the soil, there is a ton of activity happening.  Earthworms are hard at work cleaning up decaying organic material and loosening the soil.  Their waste material contains valuable nutrients for your garden plants.  There is also a lot of fungus underground.  While not the most pleasant to talk about, fungus is critical to plants and trees.  It provides a network of nutrients and communication among plants and trees that can improve the health of your garden.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

5) You will have visitors you may or may not want.

Where there is food, there will be critters.  Squirrels, rabbits, deer, and birds will all want to eat your fruits and vegetables.  Research ethical and safe ways to prevent them from stealing the food you worked so hard for. Nets, fences, enclosed gardens can provide barriers for wildlife and deer-resistant plants can help keep deer from munching on your plants.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

6) Understand the importance of sunlight and water.

Without sunlight and water, your garden will not survive.  When you plant your garden in the spring, there is typically a lot of rain so there will likely be more than enough water for the plants.  However, as the summer progresses, there is less rain.  Plants will get thirsty and could suffer or die without proper amounts of water.  Research environmentally-friendly ways to keep your plants well-watered.  Rain barrels, cisterns, drip watering systems all can provide adequate water for your plants without a lot of extra water waste.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

All plants need sunlight, but not all plants need sunlight all the time.  Before you plant anything, watch your garden area for a few days.  Pay attention to the areas that get sunlight all day and the areas that are in sunlight part of the day and in shade the rest of the day.  Some areas of your garden may even be in shade most of the day.  Find out what kinds of plants like sunlight all day, part sun and part shade, and mostly shaded areas. Placing a plant in an area with too much or not enough light can affect its growth a lot.  It can even lead to the plant’s death.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

7) Plants have friends…..and enemies.

Not all plants grow well as neighbors.  Some, however, grow better when they have friends nearby.  This concept is called companion planting and it’s often overlooked by gardeners.  This concept explores pairs of plants that grow better when placed next to each other.  The reasons for this vary, but it ranges from cooperation of the plants in the soil to getting rid of pests.

Exploration of companion planting is outside the scope of this article, but you can read more about it at this link.  There’s even a handy chart you can print out to help you know which plants grow well together and which ones should be kept away from each other.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

8) Housekeeping is important in your garden.

While not exactly “housekeeping”, gardens need ongoing care.  You will have weeds (unwanted, troublesome plants) creep up in your garden.  The water, sunlight, and nutrients you so lovingly give your plants will also grow weeds.  These unwanted plants can steal nutrients, sunlight, and garden space from your plants and make them weaker.  Research ethical and safe ways to keep weeds out of your garden.  This may include different ways of mulching or even physically pulling the weeds out with your hand or a garden tool.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

9) Enjoy your bountiful harvest!

Besides the exercise and mental health benefits of gardening, getting to pick and eat your own food is one of the very best benefits of gardening.  Research how to prepare and cook your vegetables.  Can you make a tasty salad with vegetables from your garden?  What about a yummy stir fry? Which of your vegetables will make a tasty snack all by themselves?  Fruits and vegetables that you grew with your own hands, in your own garden, taste so wonderful and are so nutritious!

Gardening into Your Homeschool

Plants that are well cared for often produce lots of fruits and vegetables! Research ways to preserve your harvests for later.  Canning, freezing, and drying are great ways to save fresh produce to eat at a later date, perhaps in the winter, if you live in an area with a shorter growing season.  You can even share your harvest with family and friends!

Gardening into Your Homeschool

10) Don’t forget to get ready for next year.

Your garden still needs attention and care even after you’ve harvested your fruits and vegetables.  Many plants will grow year after year without needing to be planted.  Some plants will grow more after they’re done growing vegetables to prepare for the coming winter.   Often, they will produce seeds that will drop to the ground and stay dormant all winter.

Then, in the spring, they will sprout and start the cycle all over again.  You may need to trim or prune the dead material off plants.  You may need to cover your gardens for winter.  Mulching is a great way to prepare your gardens for winter after the first frost has hit your area.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

If you have plants in pots, you might be able to bring them inside where they may continue to grow.  Rosemary is an herb commonly grown in many different areas, however, people in colder areas will need to bring their plant inside during the winter as it cannot survive the cold temperatures.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

Most importantly, keep a journal of your gardening experience.  What worked?  What needs to be changed?  What do you want to do next season?  What new thing will you try?  Reflecting on your season of gardening and show what you learned and help you approach next season.

Gardening into Your Homeschool

Happy gardening!

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